The Last Story Confirmed for American Release Three Days After I Bought The Import

The Last Story releases in Europe on Friday. It’s a new Wii RPG by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy. It’s the second in a string of much-anticipated Wii RPGs that was not announced for America but was for Europe, after Xenoblade Chronicles and before Pandora’s Tower.

Xenoblade is the best game I’ve played in the last five years, full stop. I imported it last year and voodooed my Wii into thinking it was European so I could play it. The Last Story is arriving probably this Friday so I can do the same thing (once I figure out the Wii again). I ordered it from Zavvi last week, and it was shipped out to me on Monday, estimated arrival time in 5-10 days.

So of course Nintendo of America releases a statement today saying that The Last Story will be brought stateside in 2012. Thanks for nothing, jerks!

Expect comments on the game this weekend or next week once I finally get it in my hands.

(Picture yoinked from Wikipedia. I should really look up blog post image rules sometime.)


Music In 4d4 Time

One-Winged Angel. Dancing Mad. The Extreme. Clash On The Big Bridge. Vamo Alla Flamenco. Chocobo. Esper Battle. Final Fantasy is a series defined by its music as much as anything else, to the point where a chief complaint many had with Final Fantasy XIII is that it had no crystal theme or victory fanfare. When you load up a Final Fantasy game, you expect incredible music from start to finish, and anything less than that is unacceptable.

That is an expectation I placed on myself when I started running my d20 Final Fantasy game back in 2003, and while I don’t know if I’ve succeeded thus far, no one can accuse me of not trying.

As of this second week of February 2012, we have had 235 formal sessions of Final Fantasy Omega, with probably another 25 or so uncategorized solo sessions that didn’t get an official number on them. In those 250+ sessions I have played 546 unique tracks of music, according to my sounds directory. At least 60 of those are recordings I did for the big arena tournament, because there is always a tournament in Final Fantasy games, and I felt compelled to record myself giving professional wrestling-esque introductions for every team and person competing. If I had any shame, that could have been embarrassing.

What started as a way to make my players excited when they used big attacks, like playing their character’s theme song when they hit their limit break, evolved into something a lot more detailed than I ever anticipated. The party members have their own musical cues and themes beyond their one theme song. For instance, summoner Naoko Kyuudou’s theme song is Ryoshima Plains from Okami, mixed so part 1 leads quickly into part 2’s drums. Okami’s soundtrack has a very strong Japanese feel to it, signature flute and strings over staccato beats and a bunch of other instruments that I would recognize instantly but could not begin to name. I’ve used other pieces of music from Okami for important things to Naoko — a few of her summons have music from Okami, as does her uncle, an important NPC (not EVERY character has their own theme music, it just feels like that). I now follow Rei Kondoh to find more work she’s done, so I can mine from those soundtracks for more Naoko-specific plot ideas.

Another character has an acoustic-guitar focus, from when he picked Bur Said by Cusco as the theme for his abandoned home. I’ve used that a time or two since. Another has a growing focus on the militaristic drums and rising strings of Hitoshi Sakimoto, best known for his work in Final Fantasy XII and Valkyria Chronicles. The first character there has a piece of music done by Hitoshi Sakimoto with acoustic guitar, and it is the theme for the closest thing they have in common.

I have built a villain solely around Liberi Fatali, the opening theme from Final Fantasy VIII, and the dozen or so versions I have of it from official releases, covers, and remixes tracked down online. One single aspect of my main villain is built around the soundtrack to NieR, the most captivating music I’ve heard in a game in the last five years, because the otherworldly vocals fit that mood perfectly.

My players don’t have the same ear for video game soundtracks that I do, because they’re not insane. But I know I’ve done a good job with music when I can slightly modify a theme and get private messages from all three of them going “Oh shit what have we done?!”

The best gift a player can give his GM is crippling fear and abject terror, and if I have to mix Powder with Gangrel’s WWF theme music to make the theme for Anima to get that fear, I will. Because when it works, when I can set a song playing and see all three of them scrambling to find a way out of the immediate area, that means I’ve done my job well.

And they hate me for it.


Writing And The Management Of The Defantasized Zone

There are two major creative things I am working on in my spare time; Popular Anarchy, my first novel, and Final Fantasy Omega, my tabletop RPG. There are similarities between them, which isn’t too surprising as far as my tastes go. There are swords and sorcery, guns and explosions, cracking wise and often, airships sailing the skies and shooting at other airships, and nefarious villains doing nefarious things.

In the RPG, one of the characters has the ability to call down a rain of meteors on his enemies. He did this to derail a train loaded with biological weapons from hitting a city. The train then attacked the full party, and I believe was defeated by being suplexed (the preferred method for dealing with trains).

Popular Anarchy is significantly lower-powered than this.

I have found difficulties in writing both at the same time. In Popular Anarchy, I have two characters taking a trip via airship from Point A to Point B. My first thought for something to happen on this trip involved a high-stakes battle on top of the airship with people falling off and being narrowly rescued before plummeting to their deaths thousands of feet below. That’s a little at odds with the style of the book (though later I have every intention of high-stakes battles atop airships), but it’s perfectly in tune with gaming, where the players regularly leap through the air between airships because they can probably break the enemy ship with their fists if they hit it right.

In theory, I have a schedule for writing. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I work on gaming preparation. Gaming itself takes place Wednesday night. I then work on PA on Thursday and Friday. In theory. It’s getting more difficult to switch gears, though, since I’m so focused on some big story stuff happening in gaming.

I’m taking this week off from gaming, but I need to build in a stricter schedule for gaming and writing. I’m going to try planning gaming on weekends and then my novel work during the week; that’s more of a fair distribution of labor. We’ll see how this goes.

If Popular Anarchy has people punching airships, though, you know why.